Last week, many were bracing for a razor-thin election in Florida like the ones in 2018 and 2000. Some people feared that the eligibility of Florida’s newly enfranchised felons could be called into question. Thousands could have cast votes despite owing court fees and fines; a controversial 2019 law passed by GOP lawmakers required that those fees and fines had to be paid first. Neither happened. President Donald Trump won the state by more than 370,000 votes, a blowout by Florida standards. The people who helped register people with felony records are feeling relieved, the Miami Herald reports. “We’re happy that the ‘returning citizen’ experience this election cycle was one of celebration and not one filled with acrimony and partisanship,” said Neil Volz of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, whose voting rights were also restored last year.
The coalition was instrumental in passing a 2018 ballot measure known as Amendment 4, which overturned the state’s 150-year-old ban on voting for people with felony convictions. Florida was the last large state to disenfranchise people with felony convictions, and its passage was celebrated as the nation’s greatest expansion of voting rights in decades. Since Amendment 4 passed in November 2018, 80,000 people with felony convictions have registered to vote. The group estimates that 50,000 voted in the general election, a turnout rate just over 62 percent. That would be much higher than felon turnout rates in the past. Many of those 50,000 were voting in a general election for the first time in their lives, Volz said. “Our folks were willing to run through a brick wall to vote,” he said. “We could feel that excitement and see that excitement.”